~~Marrakech~~ -Molly Mansfield

After visiting Marrakech, it is easy to understand why this city is Morocco’s touristic capital. The name itself is filled with mystery and intrigue. Marrakech has a little bit of everything. The winding markets are reminiscent of Fez, the city is within day-or-weekend-trip-distance of the Sahara Desert and many of Morocco’s most famous cities, and its grand square, like the square we visited in Meknes, teems with life and excitement. Its palaces and tombs offer a historical perspective to the city, and the dusty pink buildings and overwhelming aromas of spice seemingly confirm what many might imagine ~~Morocco~~ to look like.

We spent the first two days absorbing the scenery and scents and wandering around without too many objectives. Our third day in Marrakech, we had a free morning before the bus departed in the afternoon, so a few of us decided to visit the Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs. Our group was supposed to visit the palace when we had arrived on Friday, but due to some travel time miscalculations, we didn’t make it before closing.

The Saadian Tombs date back to the late 1500s and were discovered and renovated in the 1900s. We were interested to learn that while royalty was buried inside, the palace servants were also buried in the area, just outside of the building. Bahia palace, only a few minutes’ walk away, was built in the 1800s and features staples of Moroccan handiwork and architecture. These sites were a beautiful insight into different stages of Moroccan history, as well another glimpse at the common elements we’ve seen in many buildings.

Before coming to Morocco, Bailey and I spent a week in Spain where we visited the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar of Sevilla. Both the palace and the tombs were reminiscent of these historical sites. While we’ve been in Morocco, it’s been so interesting for us to see how many places we’ve visited remind us of the historical sites we visited in Spain. Of course, the historical and architectural link behind the similar plaster, zellij tiling, gardens, arches, doors, woodwork, and other elements between the two places is clear, but beyond a simply logistical perspective, it was interesting to think about why these sites might be more famous or draw more crowds in Spain than in Morocco, despite their equivalence in splendor. I know that I would have been much more struck by the beauty of the palace if I hadn’t seen similar architecture so recently in other cities in Morocco and in Spain.

Like the palace, Marrakech itself has a little bit of all the wonderful things that I’ve seen so far in Morocco. So much so that a  few of us in the group commented that many of the sites we saw in Marrakech now felt familiar after five weeks in Morocco, and that if we had visited Marrakech as our first stop, we would have been far more surprised by its beauty and intrigue. In some ways I am sad that I’ve become less bewildered by Morocco’s all around beauty and allure, but in other ways I am so glad to have spent so much time here that seeing its beautiful natural and city settings has become a normal part of my daily life here.

A visit to Bahia Palace

A room at the Saadian Tombs

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